December 5, 2016
These Inspiring Mothers Have Protected Their Children By Creating an Entirely Imaginary America For Them To Live In Forever
by Ryan Harrington
As The Poet (feat. DJ Jazzy Jeff) once said, “There’s no need to argue / Parents just don’t understand.” But damn if these parents aren’t the ones doing all the arguing these days, especially when it comes to the books that their children are reading in school.
We recently wrote about the Tennessee mother who just can’t stomach the fact that her child might be learning about Islam in social studies. And it seems she’s been rather successful in convincing the school board to pull back on teaching that subject.
Now, at the request of another concerned mother, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird have been temporarily banned from a Virginia school district. The complaint centered specifically around both books’ repeated use of the N-word (it crops up more than 250 times between the two, for those of you keeping score at home).
As Claire Fallon reports for the Huffington Post:
“Right now, we are a nation divided as it is,” the mother is heard saying in an audio recording of the meeting on Nov. 15[…] “So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by any means,” the parent said.
Granted, the mother in question has called for something rather routine, as these are two of the most hotly contested (and banned) books in the United States.
One could argue that these books of great literary merit actually represent something like an exorcism of our country’s ghosts, and a challenge to the living demons that haunt us today. But I won’t argue here about what our kids need — that’s, after all, the domain of parents.
Perhaps flattery might work instead. Let’s try. Dear outraged mother: You seem to be an excellent critical reader! I bet your kids are smart little whippersnappers, just like you! Handsome and world-wise, too! Maybe, with the internet and everything, they’re even a bit smarter! And encountering things that are horrible won’t make them horrible, but horrified!
But, if you insist on their stupidity—which it seems many of you parent-folk have—then at least rely on the paid educators we call teachers. They are often very smart. And are armed and ready to mediate between your dumbass kid and that smut the literary canon is trying to shove down their throat. I bet we could all grow from a bit of guided discussion.
The good news is that the banning isn’t necessarily a forever problem. According to Fallon, Accomack County Public Schools will be assembling a committee of educators and parents to actually read the books in question, then suggest a course of action to the district’s superintendent.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.